This week is Depression Awareness Week. It’s been suggested by some that mental health has been somewhat neglected when compared to physical health, which has led to it being labelled the ‘Cinderella service’ of the health service. However, over the last couple of years, things have begun to change. More and more people are waking up to the fact that good mental health is fundamental to good physical health.
This is due in part to courageous people like Ruby Wax, who has been outspoken about her depression, and Norman Lamb MP, who has placed a big emphasis on parity of esteem. Initiatives such as Time to Change, which is England’s biggest programme aiming to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination, have also encouraged openness about mental health.
One in four of us will suffer from a mental health condition at some point in our lives, but the way we manage the illness can make all the difference. Depression can strike at any point in a person’s life and can have devastating consequences. However, it is the way we take charge of the condition that can have an impact in management and recovery.
Fit for Work is there to support people every step of the way. If you are in work and struggling to cope, or have been off work for four weeks or more, Fit For Work will signpost you to services that will help you overcome the obstacles that are hindering your recovery. You will receive a step-by-step plan to help you return to work, as well as support through potentially tricky conversations with your employer about your health and absence.
It’s not just employees who need to empower themselves and take the first step – organisations must take strides to improve as well. Surprisingly, a large majority of companies (particularly SMEs), according to a survey by The Shaw Trust, don’t have a mental health policy.
If you are an employer, Fit for Work is here to support your company, and help you support staff who may be experiencing depression. The Fit for Work website is full of useful information to help you engage with employees who are on long-term sick leave, and manage their return to work.
Organisations shouldn’t be afraid of talking about mental health – the more everyone talks about it, the less stigma will be attached to it. A CIPD report found that less than half of employees felt comfortable talking to their employer about their mental health, which can cause people to conceal their mental health conditions rather than receiving the support they need. It’s important for employers and managers to try to create a supportive and open workplace environment in which everyone feels comfortable talking about illnesses or other issues.
Managers need to learn to recognise the signs and symptoms of someone with a mental illness. The charity SANE has created a very simple signs and symptoms guide, which can help people identify staff members who may need an extra bit of support.
To find out more about how Fit for Work can support you, whether you are a GP, and an employer, a manager or an employee, visit the Fit for Work website.